The only LGBT Pride festival in Thailand starts on Sunday, with a few changes from last year
Phuket Pride, the only LGBT Pride festival in Thailand this year, starts on Sunday and continues for a week of out and proud festivities.
This year the festival is coming out of the 'gay ghetto' area of Patong Beach, the Paradise Complex, and into a more mainstream public area of the Thai beach resort town. That meant securing the support of the local government, Patong municipality.
'We thought it's best if it's it in the public domain rather than the gay quarter. It should be out and proud,' Rob Vermeer, one of this year's organisers, told Gay Star News.
Another change for the festival this year is the dates. Phuket Pride, which has been celebrated since the early 2000s, is usually held in tourist high season in February. Vermeer hopes that moving the festival to April will attract more local Thai LGBT people.
'We wanted to reach more people, and the people of South East Asia can't afford the price of flights to and hotels in Phuket in February,' says Vermeer. 'We want to make it accessible to the local and regional Thai GLBT community.'
The mainly ex-pat organisers have struggled to get local Thai LGBT people involved in organising the festival, but they are hoping that if they pull off a great Pride week, more Thai people will want to be involved next year.
As well as the usual parties, charity auction, film screening and parade, Phuket Pride 2012 features a 'Rainbow Scuba dive' on Monday 23, a beach volleyball tournament on Wednesday 26 and a football tournament on Thursday 27. Plus, Vermeer is running a workshop about intercultural relationships between Westerns and Thais that will focus on 'the most common misunderstandings and how to avoid them'.
The festival also features a 'Mr Gay Phuket' competition with a significant 30,000 Baht ($970, €738) first prize and the Grand Parade on Saturday 28. Last year's parade was watched by 25,000 people but Vermeer expects a more modest turn out this year as it is low season.
Bangkok Pride was last held in 2006, seven years after the first gay festival in the Thai capital, a Halloween parade.
Douglas Sanders wrote about the problems the festival faced in Fridae Asia in 2009, after Bangkok Pride was cancelled:
'After a number of years the Bangkok Pride board developed its personality clashes, and faced declining support from businesses and the few NGOs involved. Eventually the main business figures withdrew in favor of the Thai NGOs. But the Thai NGOs had never been the people pushing the parties and the parade. The last parade was held in 2006.'